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Ellington out against Rams, Nkemdiche will play

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2017 – 8:31 am

The Cardinals will have to do some offensive shuffling today in London, because running back Andre Ellington (quad) won’t be able to play. That should increase the role of Kerwynn Williams — D.J. Foster remains on the sideline as inactive. The good news is that defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche is active, so he will finally return from his calf issue.

The weather, while chilly, also looks decent for this game. It is windy, which could impact things, but the moisture should stay away.

The full inactive list:

— QB Blaine Gabbert

— WR Chad Williams

— RB D.J. Foster

— RB Andre Ellington

— C Daniel Munyer

— DL Olsen Pierre

— TE Ricky Seal-Jones


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In London, Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2017 – 1:16 pm

The week in London is nearing its end. The Cardinals are hoping it means something. The Rams didn’t pull in until early Friday morning from Florida, while the Cards got here Tuesday morning. The players have adjusted for the time, but that doesn’t mean it’d be any easier for Carson Palmer to throw the ball if it turns out to be rainy and windy Sunday night at Twickenham Stadium.

It’s been a work week. Some players have gotten out – there were many who hit the city even Tuesday night, and I’ve just wrapped up a central London tour with rookies Haason Reddick and Rudy Ford, photos and video to come – but it’s been work.

(An interesting sidebar: Before leaving Jacksonville, Rams running back Todd Gurley told ESPN “they need to stop this, all this stuff. This London, this Mexico City stuff, it needs to stop.” He did say the the games are cool and he praised the fans, but it simply messed with the people’s schedule too much.)

Certainly an experience. But as kicker Phil Dawson said Friday, if the Cards play well Sunday, spending a week here makes sense. If the Cards play poorly, everyone will say they were there too long. It is all about results, just like every week.

— The trip to London probably muted what would have been a second straight week of Adrian Peterson buzz, but it’s still floating around. Peterson was blunt when he was asked if he thought those weeks with the Saints might’ve just been the end of his career.

“Oh, no,” Peterson said. “I definitely wasn’t going to let the devil do that to me. No, not at all. I knew things were going to change. I didn’t know when, but I knew. I refused to let that come into my mind. Like, ‘This is not the way it’s going to end. God has way more for me. My latter is going to be better than my beginning.’ That’s what’s in my mind, and this is just the start of it.”

There have been many players over the years who don’t think their career is over but they are the only ones who cannot see it. Turns out Peterson was right. The Cards will benefit from that.

— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said last week’s offensive performance was what the Cards were looking for all year (and likely what they had envisioned if David Johnson had stayed healthy.)

“We just hadn’t got it,” Goodwin said. “The plays didn’t change, it’s just the attitude changed when Adrian got here. … Even when he got tackled he’s slapping guys in the back of the helmet. He’s setting the tone and that’s spreading throughout the offense.”

— Dawson has played in London before, and he played many seasons in the wind-whipped conditions of Cleveland. “The grass here reminds me a lot of Cleveland, Ohio,” Dawson said. “The wind, the misty rain, the longer grass. Hopefully those years will prove me well, but one thing I’ve learned after all these years is just because you’ve played in conditions one time doesn’t mean you’ll be prepared for the next.”

The weather forecast for Sunday night is the upper 60s and only a small chance of rain.

— Bruce Arians reiterated cornerback Tramon Williams will have a bigger role in multiple packages. He did not say he was starting (although to be fair, he didn’t say he wasn’t either). Whatever happens, we will see how he does and how Justin Bethel reacts.

— I’ve been lucky enough to meet some European Cardinals fans the last few days, and I expect that I’ll meet a few more. Always good to know the team has a following around the world. Those here – and the U.S. fans who have flown in for the game – will see an important matchup Sunday. Being here, it is easy to lose sight of the magnitude of Sunday’s result.

Until then, cheerio.


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Cardinals consider rugby – and padless hitting

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2017 – 4:07 pm

The Cardinals have practiced this week at the London Irish Rugby Football Club in London, and Thursday, the team just so happened to be practicing right before the Cards took the field themselves on one of the further fields. It became a popular topic, the idea of essentially playing football without pads.

“I played sandlot football growing up a lot, but we were 80 pounds back then,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said with a smile. “I can’t imagine somebody 240 (pounds) hitting me without any pads on. I’m pretty sure I’d be on IR.”

Larry Fitzgerald has seen rugby matches during his world travels. He’s also watched a lot of Australian Rules Football, a similar game, because former teammate and Cardinals punter Ben Graham is the general manager of a team in his country and Fitzgerald has gone to watch those practices too. Fitz said the padless game of rugby actually provides something from which NFL players should learn.

“Those guys have much better technique than we have,” Fitzgerald said. “You see them tackle, they tackle proper – heads up, wrap and run. They have less issues than we do. We could learn a thing or two from the way they play.”

 

 

 


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On Wednesday, Chandler Jones gets another sack

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2017 – 11:03 am

Sure it’s midweek, but Chandler Jones just got another sack.

The linebacker is having a great season anyway, but no, he’s not so good as to take a QB down when there’s no game being played. In the fourth quarter, Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was credited with a run for a loss of two yards, with defensive lineman Frostee Rucker being credited with the tackle. But it wasn’t Rucker but Jones who made the stop, and it was on a pass attempt, so Elias officially called it a sack. It was Jones’ second sack of the game.

It also means Jones now has seven sacks in six games, a Cardinals’ record for most sacks in the first six games of a season. Curtis Greer held the previous mark with 6½ sacks in six games in 1983. Jones already has five multi-sack games with the Cardinals in 21 games with the team.

Jones was great against the Bucs even without his sacks. His pressure on the QB has been consistent all season and he’s even stood strong against the run. After his huge contract extension this offseason, Jones is showing why he got all that money.


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Keim: Peterson trade example of a “swing”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2017 – 8:25 am

Steve Keim had looked at all options when David Johnson first got hurt, and that included research on Adrian Peterson. But the push to trade for the veteran running back didn’t come until last week, when Keim said he “picked up the phone and it worked out pretty quickly.”

The “why” of the deal wasn’t complicated.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “At the end of the day, it made us better. The one thing I am committed to do as the General Manager, and I know Michael (Bidwill) and B.A. (Bruce Arians) is committed to do, we’re not going to sit on our hands if we think we can get better.

“It doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions. I’ve certainly made my mistakes here. But the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to swing. To me, you can never hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate and swing. I owe it to the organization, I owe it to the fan base, and that’s the mindset I’m always going to have.”

It was interesting to hear Keim, who mentioned at least a couple of times the “mistakes” he has made as a GM. And as good as Peterson was Sunday, he wasn’t proclaiming the move the end-all-be-all.

“Hopefully it would add a spark to the offense,” was Keim’s thought process. “More than anything, I think we created balance.”

It also helped morale, Keim said.

“It was about igniting a spark and creating an enthusiasm throughout the building, which was infectious the moment we did it on Tuesday,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thought what was overlooked Sunday was the return of the left side of the offensive line. It was going to be difficult, Keim reiterated, no matter who the running back was with all the injuries. Earl Watford already looks like he’ll settle in at right guard, but it was left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone who showed what impact they could have.

“For the first time this year, we saw five guys up front playing in unison,” Keim said. “I thought D.J. was excellent. We’ve always know he can run block. His ability to roll his hips and finish at the point of attack is something to me that sets him apart from a lot of other tackles. He and Alex on several of those ‘deuce’ blocks created five- and six-yards of run lanes for Adrian.”

Keim also praised the perimeter blocking of the wide receivers that helped Peterson.

— Keim said there was a lot of discussion with team president Bidwill about Peterson, both on and off the field (including, it stands to reason, the year-long suspension Peterson had after child abuse accusations.) Keim said as with every player, the decision-makers talk through every part of a player, on the field, off the field, in the locker room and in the community. “Both of us were comfortable with that,” Keim said.

— Keim was asked, if he had been GM and not just in the front office in 2007 when the Cards were drafting, if he would have drafted Peterson at No. 5 (The Cards took tackle Levi Brown; Peterson went two picks later.) “You can go back and say that about a lot of different players,” Keim said. “I was not the general manager and I’ve certainly made enough mistakes in the position I’m in now. I’m just trying to take every day, every year and get better at my craft. Hopefully I can put a product on the field that fans can be proud of.”

— About the defense, which allowed a big second half after the Cards built a 31-0 lead before holding on, 38-33: “There is something to be said about momentum,” Keim said. “Part of that momentum we created on offense was a good thing. Now we have to figure out why the momentum issues are happening to us on defense.”

Keim said the defense played well in spurts, but they need to rally better after giving up a big play. (An aside, the Bucs still converted 50 percent on third downs, which continues to be an issue for the defense.) Keim praised Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker and the work of cornerback Tramon Williams. Keim echoed Arians’ thought that Williams should get more playing time. Keim also said safety Antoine Bethea (three picks in three games) doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.

— Keim said he is confident cornerback Patrick Peterson (quad) will be able to play in London against the Rams.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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Nkemdiche still out, but other Cards are playing

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 11:32 am

In the world of questionable, most Cardinals are playing today, except for defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who is still not ready with his calf injury after working out pre-game with head athletic trainer Tom Reed. All the other players listed as questionable — tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive lineman Corey Peters, cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Karlos Dansby — are active for the Cardinals against the Buccaneers.

It’s good news to have all those guys available, especially on defense. We’ll see if Bruce Arians also uses some subs on the offensive line for Alex Boone and D.J. Humphries at some point. Both those guys are starting, but Arians did express concern about their game conditioning after all this time out.

The full list of inactives:

— QB Blaine Gabbert

— WR Chad Williams

— RB D.J. Foster

— C Daniel Munyer

— DL Olsen Pierre (ankle)

— TE Ricky Seals-Jones

— DL Robert Nkemdiche (calf)


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A pair of Petersons, Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2017 – 3:59 pm

Adrian Peterson was the story of the week after he was traded to the Cardinals Tuesday. For a few days, all you can really have is speculation. The coaches and players are enthused about his arrival and what he might be able to do. Really, you’d expect nothing else. Optimism tends to reign in these situations.

“You got Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald on the same team, and Carson (Palmer) is delivering the ball to both of them,” tackle D.J. Humphries said. “It’s like, ‘What?’ That sounds like something you would do on ‘Madden,’ a team you’d create on ‘Madden.’ ”

The spotlight will be on “All Day” Sunday. If I had to guess – and this is purely a guess – I’m guessing on 12 or 15 touches. The revamped offensive line has to make some inroads, and that’s no guarantee. And while Peterson supposedly has looked good since arriving (we cannot watch practice), there’s no way to know exactly what the 32-year-old will do in a game situation.  Still, there is little arguing that, after a bad game in Philly, there was a vibe of hope around this offense this week.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be on my team,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But he is.”

— The Cardinals have another Peterson. Patrick represents the other side of the ball. Unlike Adrian Peterson, who is still looking to prove he has a lot left, Patrick Peterson doesn’t need to, because he is at the height of his powers. But that can only go so far. And before the offensive Peterson arrived, it was the defensive Peterson’s overflowing passion in Philly that underscored some of the issues with a defense of which so much was expected.

Let’s say P2 does his job on Mike Evans this weekend. The Cards have to find a way to control DeSean Jackson and some good tight ends. They have to get off the field on third-and-long. (An aside, the Cardinals have been good at forcing third downs and even third-and-longs. They just have to close the deal.)

“It’s definitely something we’ve struggled with all season,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think it’s something we can correct. We’ve got a veteran group on the backend. Everything has to go together. If you call a zero blitz, the pressure has to get home. If you’re dropping zone, you’ve got to affect the passer. I think everything goes hand-in-hand.”

A zero blitz, like the one that didn’t get home at third-and-19 last week.

— Speaking of getting home, it was a tough first game at outside linebacker for rookie Haason Reddick. He made a couple of nice plays – there was one great stay-at-home play on a zone-read run by Eagles QB Carson Wentz – but mostly was locked up and a non-factor as a pass rusher.

“I don’t think he played as well as he wanted to play,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “He had four days playing the position. Play fast and play hard, he did that. Now we stack pieces on top of that.”

— Sunday is the Cardinals’ “Crucial Catch” game so if you have a chance to wear pink and represent, here’s your opportunity.

— Will be interested in seeing how the interior of the offensive line handles Gerald McCoy.

— With the running game having its issues and Palmer throwing all the time, he’s up to 1,573 yards passing. That’s a pace for 5,033 for the season, which would obliterate the franchise record.

— Another reason defense always seems to be a key: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 34-3-1 when holding the other team to 20 points or fewer.

— The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday (and for those who have forgotten, it was the Buccaneers who were the opponent in 2010 when the Cards wore their black alternates for the first time.)

That’ll be two straight home games in which the Cards wear black, because they’ll break out their Color Rush unis for the next home game Nov. 9, Thursday, against the Seahawks. The difference? The Color Rush jerseys will have red numbers instead of white. And the pants will be black, not white.

Here endeth the jersey conversation for today.

— OK, maybe not all the jersey conversation. After the talk about Adrian Peterson and Justin Bethel and wearing 28 (and there is a chance the league wouldn’t allow an in-season change, but I could not get an official answer on that), Larry Fitzgerald was asked if he went to a new team if he would expect whoever had No. 11 to give it to him.

“I would just go where I fit in,” Fitzgerald said. “It wouldn’t bother me. I wore No. 1 my whole life until I got here. They gave me 11. At the end of training camp a couple of 80-numbers were available, but I was like, I’ll stick with it, this is what they gave me. The number doesn’t make the player. The player makes the number. I’ve always thought that.”

— The Cardinals leave Monday night for London. But first, the Bucs. See you Sunday.


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David Johnson return not before Thanksgiving

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2017 – 11:01 am

Now that Adrian Peterson has arrived, it’s fair to wonder about when — and if — David Johnson will be more than just a locker room-mate at running back. Johnson, on injured reserve with his surgically repaired left wrist, said rehab is “going great.”

“Just got my cast, it’s going good, wrist is feeling great,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Johnson wouldn’t put a timetable on his comeback. “Wait and see how it heals,” he said.

Coach Bruce Arians said on his SiriusXM NFL radio appearance Wednesday night that the “earliest” Johnson would return would be Thanksgiving. That weekend, the Cardinals host the Jaguars, and there would be six games left in the season. There are still five games in between then and now. Arians had previously put Johnson’s return sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so his comment this week remains in line with that.

Johnson said it was a “humbling moment” to see Peterson come in the locker room. “It’s going to be cool to pick his brain and learn from it.” (Johnson, however, was disappointed Chris Johnson was released, calling Johnson his mentor.)

“The opportunities I’ve had to talk to him were brief,” Peterson said of his relationship with David Johnson. “He came to Minnesota, and I just had to congratulate him on the things that he had accomplished so far and things like that. He was just like, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to be like you. You’re one of the guys that have paved the way.’ So for me, I sit back and kind of just marvel and smile when I hear young guys like that say how I influenced them and their play and their work ethic.”


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Here’s the deal: Peterson 23, Bethel keeps 28

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2017 – 2:40 pm

Adrian Peterson is wearing No. 23.

Did he ask for his longtime No. 28, currently being worn by cornerback Justin Bethel? “Of course he did,” Bethel said.

“We had a conversation,” Peterson said with a smile. “Didn’t last long at all. We discussed it a little bit, and at the end of the day, I’ll be wearing 23.”

Bethel said “it’s not my first time being in this situation,” he said. Bethel was No. 31 his first two years in the league, before he worked a deal with cornerback Antonio Cromartie when Cro wanted 31. Bethel switched to 28 then.

“I don’t mind keeping the number,” Bethel said.

When he was asked if the number was available for a price, Bethel didn’t want to get into specifics. Peterson simply said, “we just didn’t agree.”

Bethel didn’t close the door on Peterson getting 28 — “Anything is possible in this world,” he said — but Peterson sounded like a man who is at peace with new digits.

“I like (Bethel),” Peterson said. “He’s a guy I’ve watched and I appreciate. He’s one of those guys who came from the bottom who has made a name for himself, a hard worker. He represents that number well. If it was another guy, we probably would’ve been tussling in there but he can have it.”


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